You’ve seen it by the side of the road, in fields, pastures, you may have even run over it with your lawn mower. It goes by many names; lamb’s ear, rabbit’s ear, witches candle, and more commonly, mullein. It’s a plant that is almost universally regarded as an invasive weed in the United States and Canada, but before you get out the Roundup, you might want to read the rest of this article.
For those who may not know what plant I’m referring to, mullein are those plants that you see growing by the side of the road or in vacant lots, basically any poor soil. Mullein leaves, as one of their many nicknames implies, look like green, fuzzy rabbit ears. Being biennial, mullein have two growing stages. Their first year, they grow in small rosettes; the second year, they form a flower stalk that can grow to be as tall as seven feet. Small, yellow flowers form in a spiral pattern around the stalk. Under the surface, they form an enormous carrot-like root, and I can speak from experience, it’s the devil itself to yank it out at that stage.
Mullein is native to Eurasia, and has been used for various purposes for millennia. Mullein is mention in the Odyssey as the plant that Odysseus used to protect himself from the witch Circe. Indeed, one of the main attributes of mullein in the ancient world was it’s supposed ability to ward off black magic.
On top of that, it’s also a natural dye for yarns and fabrics. The leaves, flowers and stalks yield a dull yellow pigment when boiled, used to dye natural fibers, such as wool, cotton and flax. Roman women also used the plant to dye their hair blonde. Those adventurous (or foolhardy) enough to attempt this themselves are welcome to post the results to this blog.
Mullein has also been used as a natural medicine for centuries, and this continues to be a popular use for the plant. All parts of the plant can be used to treat any number of respiratory ailments, from asthma to pneumonia. The tea from the leaves, I’m given to understand, is fairly bitter, and it is recommended that one use sugar to make it more palatable. Mullein oil also has antibacterial and antiviral properties. The leaves can also increase circulation when applied directly to the skin.
This is Ian Wilson, stating once again, think before you yank!
**Opinions expressed on blogs about which I write are the opinion of the blog authors and DO NOT necessarily reflect my own opinion.